Villager Bar and Juniper, Edinburgh

Continued from Edinburgh Craft Beer Crawl

So if you’re a regular here you will know that I last left you in the The Potting Shed in Edinburgh full of craft beer…

…from there OH and I headed down past the Scottish Museum with the intention of heading towards George Street. However, we saw that the Villager Bar had comfy couches and cocktails and so decided to pop in.  There was a Cocktail of the Week so not one for reading menus, OH pointed at the sign and in his best Andy (from Little Britain) accent he said, “I want that one.” Miss Hoitytoity-Snootypants barmaid looked at him as if he was a bit soft, raised an eyebrow and enunciated perfectly, “Pardon?” He pointed again. “One of those.”

With a sniff that raised her nose even higher, she looked at me and asked if it was two. I said I was still deciding and continued to absorb the list of concoctions in front of me . She toddled off to start mixing.

After scouring the menu and eventually deciding I needed a gin based cocktail with something a bit different to it, I raised my head to find a different barmaid standing in front of me.  She asked if I had decided and I smiled and said I had but pointed to the other barmaid to say that she was serving us. This caused the two barmaids to have a pow-wow, which resulted in Miss Hoitytoity-Snootypants coming straight over. She looked a bit put-out but that just may be her normal look. She said something along the lines of ‘I’m not making one for you’. I apologised and said that I’d thought she was mixing OH’s one. She confirmed that indeed she was but not one for me. I told her I knew that because I wanted a Summer Number Ten ( tantalising, tarty and sunny mix of portobello road gin, st germain elderflower liqueur, rhubarb bitters, physalis and lemon, served straight up – £7.50) I’m thinking they use her look to sour drinks and don’t bother using lemon at all. She walked off as if she were wearing wooden knickers.

I decided to leave the bar at this point as I knew I was allowing myself to be irritated by the young madam and I didn’t want my day spoilt.  I therefore went through to where the comfy couches were and sat down. Soon OH joined me with both of our cocktails. It wasn’t long before Miss Hoitytoity-Snootypants came through and explained that as we weren’t eating we may have to move as they might need the table for diners. I told her that wasn’t a problem. She was very polite. 2015-05-16 17.05.51

It was minutes later when she came back smiling sweetly and asked us to move as she needed to set the table up. We lifted our glasses and smiling just as sweetly, went back through to the bar. I say smiling, it may have been a grimace.

Letting OH look after our drinks, I disappeared downstairs to the toilets. There were signs on the doors already apologising for the temporary state of them. I went in to find capped pipes sticking up through the flooring, mirrors balanced against walls and red painted hardboard surrounding one toilet. I could see where walls had been as I made my way towards the makeshift cubicle. It had only been a short while since I had been in a bar made to look like a potting shed. Now I was going to a loo actually in a shed.

Back upstairs, OH and I drained our drinks and left. £15 for 2 drinks and a very unhappy experience. I’m sure on another day, with a different barmaid, we would have had a lovely time but Miss Hoitytoity-Snootypants, whether deliberately or not, made me decide I won’t be back.

As we walked down the hill. the clouds were getting darker and we decided, if we didn’t want caught in the rain, that we should maybe find somewhere sooner than George Street. We headed down the News Steps and soon found ourselves in Juniper, a cocktail bar upstairs on Princes Street next to the restaurant Twenty. The trendy (and expensive) bar was full of dressed up women enjoying cocktails and having a laugh. It took a while to get a table but eventually OH and I were able to sit, looking over the fantastic scenery of Edinburgh, and sip a cocktail without a look of disdain in sight.  2015-05-16 17.59.49With hindsight, I should have taken all my empty cocktail glasses from Juniper’s back to the Village Bar, held them up and said, “Big mistake. Big. Huge!”

Edinburgh – Craft beer crawl

Usually when OH and I go out we eat and I drink. Therefore, this weekend OH stated, with a toddler like determination, that he wanted to try some real ales and he wasn’t too fussed about food. Who was I to argue? So off we went and were publicly transported to Edinburgh, solely with beer in mind.

Our first port of call was The Advocate just off the Royal Mile (7 Hunter Square). It was relatively empty so we managed to get a seat without any difficulty and it wasn’t too hard to notice the rest of the clientele were tourists. Posters screaming out how good their haggis was adorned the walls so this confirmed their customer base . OH started off with a pint of Old Speckled Hen as he thought “Woo hoo, Old Speckled Hen on draught!”. Apparently it’s one of his favourites. I started slow and had half a cider because it was still early and I’m a lady (if you just spat on to your screen you know me too well!). OH told me the round was £7 something so not the cheapest of rounds #touristtrap.Ushers

From there we wandered up South Bridge and turned right on to West Nicholson Street where Usher’s of Edinburgh is to be found. The decor in Ushers is heavy on wood and as you descend down the stairs into the bar you get whiffs of creosote. The aroma is even stronger in the toilets but as OH pointed out, it’s better than 2015-05-16 13.56.09the smell of piss.

We’ve visited Usher’s before and already knew it had an onsite microbrewery and therefore lots of choice. Again we weren’t disappointed. There was 20 pumps to choose from as well as a vast array of bottled ales. After sampling a few of the beers, OH chose one of their own, Smokey and the Bandit.2015-05-16 13.57.28 I had a taste of it and it was like the last mouthful of cocoa that you forgot to drink earlier. Cold, chocolaty and a little bitter. OH, however, says it was nice and light, not a heavy potent beer that makes your mouth look like a cat’s ass but smooth and light and tasty – so there you have it. I had a pilsner called Sunburst from the Inveralmond Brewery (4.3%). It was so light and crisp it was like drinking water straight from a Scottish spring that had ran over some hops.

Leaving Usher’s behind (as it would have been too easy to rise to the challenge of trying every pump) we went outside and found it to be a bit dreich so ended up going straight into the next door bar, The Blind Poet. This bar had literary quotes on it’s walls and was full of leather couches and chairs. OH quickly decided on a pint of Broughton’s Dark Dunter (4.8%) Dark dunterand announced it was smokey and chocolaty and had more body than his last pint and went down a treat. (you will notice Smokey and the Bandit wasn’t described as smokey). I had Camden’s Gentleman’s Wit a 4.3%  Belgium Witbier, which had a lovely refreshing lemony tang to it. Unfortunately we also decided to eat in this bar as there was a basket menu and I thought it would be a good idea to get something in our stomachs before we continued our ale quest. Big mistake. It was a basket menu and I thought cheap and cheerful but no – just cheap and even then really bad value. Enough said.

You know when you have went for a run in the car to have a picnic and can’t find some place lovely to stop so end up parking somewhere that’s just okay so you can eat – you then finish your picnic and drive off around the corner only to find a spot with the most amazing view in the world? Well that’s exactly what happened to us as we left The Blind Poet and happened upon The Potting Shed on Potterrow. It was fabulous. The decor was just as if you had wandered into a potting shed. The light fittings were pots, buckets or sieves, there were plants, chicken wire and spades everywhere and the food was served on terracotta saucers (I’m going back so will tell you if the food is any good later). There was also a blackboard with all the on-tap drinks they had on offer.   Again, after a few samples, OH settled on a pint of Le Chien Noir (5.5%) from Carbon Smith Brewing – apparently a rich and darkly roasted stout but on asking OH just now he can’t remember much about it….and there was me laughing at OH and now I discover I can’t remember what I had – I know it had either white or lie in the title and was supposed to have a hint of banana to it but it was rank – the bananas must have been old and brown. It looked like dirty dishwater after you’ve had a curry and was heavy going. I couldn’t finish it. Next time I’m having samples first too!

…to be continued but ***spoiler alert**** we went on to cocktails next.

Ducks Kilspindie House, Aberlady

If your name is Duck then you either change it by deed poll as soon as you can or you embrace it wholeheartedly and open a hotel called Ducks with a bistro called Donald’s and you fill the place with ducks at every point whether it is ornaments, pictures or shower curtains.

As tacky as that may sound it really isn’t. Duck’s was a lovely last minute find.

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As soon as I knew I wasn’t on-call and off on Bank Holiday Monday I checked the weather forecast and then did a search for dog friendly hotels down the east coast where it was going to be sunny and breezy and bright. And that’s how I happened upon Duck’s Kildpindie House in Aberlady.

We booked in for bed and breakfast and then when we go there we decided to dine there too.

The room was basic but comfortable and had everything you would need for an overnight stay. We had been given a room at the back of the hotel, which took a bit of getting to as the hotel surrounds a courtyard. However, this worked out to be ideal for us as there was a back entrance that allowed us straight in and out with the dog and saved us having to trail the dog through the hotel. 2015-05-03 17.53.17

After a fantastic walk around the bay we had a quick drink in the bar before dinner. As Aberlady (just like a lot of the villages on the east coast of Scotland) is a golfing village it was no surprise that the bar had a golfing theme. Golf pin flags festooned the roof and other golfing memorabilia decorated the walls.

With a healthy appetite we wandered through to Donald’s Bistro, named after the owner’s father. 2015-05-03 18.16.07As soon as I was told the soup of the day was French onion I didn’t pay too much attention to the rest of the starters. 2015-05-03 18.28.13OH decided on ‘Sauteed mushrooms on toast, highland blue cheese, poached egg’ as he thought it was a great combination that he hadn’t thought of putting together before. It was an inspired choice as he loved it and is now going to try and make them himself for a breakfast some weekend. (I won’t hold my breath though). I was a tad disappointed when my soup arrived and looked like no French onion soup I had ever seen before. It was butternut squash! 2015-05-03 18.28.46 I would have complained and sent it back but fortunately my second favourite soup is spicy butternut squash. It was good. Nice and thick with a little bit of heat about it.

For main I had ‘Twice cooked pork belly, Stornoway black pudding, apple fritter, Belhaven Best Yorkshire pudding, cider jus. OH chose ‘Roast saddle of lamb with confit shoulder, Belhaven Best Yorkshire pudding, mash, Stornoway haggis’.

2015-05-03 18.40.58We both enjoyed our courses. The pork belly melted in my mouth and the black pudding complimented it beautifully and OH loved the confit shoulder. However, neither of us managed to clear our plates. Whether we had pigged out on our starters or it was just too big a portion we’re not sure but our loss was the dog’s gain 😉 2015-05-03 18.40.35-1

Of course OH still had room for a dessert. He maintains that ice cream settles his stomach but I’m not sure if this is just a ploy to get a pudding when he hasn’t ate all his meat. Saying that, he did go for the ‘Vanilla ice cream with marinated berries, honey & whisky.’
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Dinner, bed and breakfast for 2 and a bottle of wine = £113.50. It was great value for money and worth a visit if you are in the area and looking for cheap and cheerful. The staff were very friendly and welcoming, especially the owner Malcolm, his son, Malcolm, and the barman, Jamie who unfortunately is set to leave and I bet, will be a sad lost to the Ducks.